One day, you make up your mind and decide to travel and see the rest of the world plus what it has to offer far away from home. This seems like a wonderful idea and the best way to learn more about other countries till you have to spend a lot of money every time you cross a border to head into another region, the money you could have spent on several things on your journey depletes even faster.
We as Africans have made it difficult for our very own people to travel freely through our borders, we have overlooked the spirit of unity and shared economic growth, built several strongholds that keep out those from our neighboring regions, but make it very easy for those from the West to actually traverse through our borders.
So what does it mean for a country to have a relaxed visa policy for travelers from across Africa? It means that if you were moving from South Africa to Uganda, you would not need to apply for a visa or you would have to get it upon arrival at the Airport or border. This can be seen when traveling throughout East Africa; if you are Ugandan and headed to Kenya for example, you can easily get a visa stamp upon arrival without paying a fee which is more suitable than applying for one than waiting for a number of weeks after spending a certain amount of money for it to be processed and you find out it was rejected. Visas are used for different reasons, whether as a security measure to control the entry and duration of the stay of people coming into a country or to limit a visitor’s activities, generate revenue or show reciprocity to match the treatment other countries give to their citizens.
In 2013 from a statement on their website, the World Bank stated that:
“Visas represent high cost in terms of money and time for the individual applying for visas, as well as missed opportunities for the local service economy and for trade. However, despite several improvements to visa legislations in African countries (such as in Djibouti, Mozambique and Rwanda), many immigration policies no longer respond to the present-day needs of African businesses and citizens…”
The need for African countries to be open to free but regulated travel amongst our countries is as important as the need to trade easily with each other and support the many but different budding economies that have slowly sprouted all over the continent. The no visa policy for Africans to travel to the rest of Africa can strengthen.
Regions with liberal visa policies such as East Africa make it easy for so many Africans to trade, travel and stay in the member countries compared to the other regions on the continent. Yet, it is harder for East Africans to easily access travel permission to the other regions. Take South Africa for an example; to be able to travel from Uganda, you will need evidence of sufficient funds inclusive of bank statements and of course $61 for visa processing payments which is almost the same as applying for a Schengen visa to Europe.
So why is this so and why do we continue restricting travel amongst us a continent? Is it worth it?
Tourism suffers greatly in most of the countries when traveling for foreign visitors is heavily restricted, Seychelles has seen a huge leap in their tourism sector once they implemented the “no visa policy.” According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the country had over 4,963.7mn (32.3% of total exports) visitor generated exports in 2014 which is forecast to grow by 6.5% in 2015, and grow by 5.1% pa, from 2015-2025, to SCR8,670.2mn in 2025 (30.9% of total.
Liberal visa policies do not mean that the countries cannot regulate and supervise the continued travel activities of foreigners going and coming, it is imperative that they do. Regulations are important for the safety of all travelers and the citizens at large, this means that the countries have to train several personnel that will be accorded with the duties of implementing and supervision of the new travel policies.